Her Fearful Symmetry

There are titles that haunt. There are titles that leave you with a good feeling, like you just got out of a warm bath tub. There are titles that have you gasping at the end. And then, there are titles that intrigue you at the cover, lure you in the artistry of the woven words, and leave you both entertained and enchanted long after you have finished perusing the last page. Such is the Audrey Niffenegger effect. Many people know her to be the creator of The Time Traveler’s Wife.

Last Saturday, while teetering on the edge of yet another major life decision, I decided to enchant myself with her writing.I took on the thick, hardbound copy with such a lustrous dark blue cover off my latest book bag and spent 4 straight hours reading it non-stop until I got to the very last page. Occasionally, I’d sniff the pages to reduce any eye strain. My inexorable love for books is incurable, a terminal illness that trumps eye bags and any form of travel.

It’s delicious without an overkill for the reading taste buds. I found most of it entertaining except for that part where her advocacies seemed to pop out of the page like a surprising daisy that cuts through the thread of hauntingly yummy thought. From this book, I have learned that even with “writing what you know”, you can still have a unique spin if you look at everyday things with a magical writer’s eye.

Niffenegger is a Highgate Cemetery tour guide. Her extensive knowledge of the high profile London cemetery made it all so vivid for my reading pleasure when she wrote it as the main setting for Her Fearful Symmetry. I kind of debated whether the name Valentine was an appropriate name for one of the characters. She’s too fragile to have that strong name. But I guess that’s a play at irony that I might have missed in my first read.

It was not as graphically disturbing as Yann Martel. It’s just about enough gore downplayed by the nuances of the character’s inner lives as their streams of consciousness fill the pages. Her Fearful Symmetry is one of those books that have you sighing in delight after you’ve turned the last page. It had a plot twist that is almost impossible to predict. It had interesting and well-developed characters. And it was written in a way that shows so clearly without even trying too hard to tell anything.

This is definitely not the last Niffenegger book to land on my shelf and on my bedside.


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